Blisters On Me Fingers
HIGH Finishing a 30x combo.
LOW Getting hit right before finishing a 30x combo.
WTF Waiting hours to unlock basic mechanics.
Scourgebringer, the new release by Thomas Altenburger (Neurovoider, Bury Me, My Love), transports the player to a post-apocalyptic world where a monolith has descended from the sky to spawn demons and evil creatures. Mankind’s last hope rests on the shoulders of young warrior Khyra, who will have to venture inside said monolith and find a solution to the scourge by dashing, slashing and killing tons of enemies.
The story is light on narrative — lore is usually found randomly in the form of logs and never really becomes a main focus. Instead, the action takes center stage.
Structured as a roguelite 2D pixel-art action-platformer, each level is made of randomly generated maps broken up into rooms which have to be entirely cleared of enemies before the player is allowed to proceed. Once the stage boss is located and vanquished, a portal opens and it’s on to the next stage until the run is completed by rolling credits or the player dies.
The control scheme works decently, though it gets a tad too complicated at times. There are four different types of attacks — melee, dash (which also propels the player into the air), ranged (pistols, shotguns, etc.) and the “smash”, used to stun enemies and repel their bullets. There are more special moves to be unlocked, but they are so numerous that keeping track of them all becomes a bit difficult. In-game currency comes in the form of Blood, dropped by dying enemies, which can be used to buy new weapons or health restoring items.
Since, in roguelite fashion, each death resets things to zero, the player can acquire persistent upgrades by investing points into the Chiming Tree — a literal skill tree. This means that the first underpowered runs will earn the player little progress, since defeating each boss takes a precise approach. Each upgrade can also be deactivated, should one wish to employ a particular strategy.
After a few level-ups, it’s possible to unlock a combo system that gives the player more currency and easier access to better items. Also, “The Fury”, the most powerful attack at the player’s disposal, can only be unlocked after a couple of hours playing. My issue here is that the Fury and most other upgrades feel mandatory — like I’m walking a predetermined path, rather than being free to build my own strategy. Worse, until the player’s earned them, there’s too little progress being made.
Graphically, Scourgebringer is done in a faux 8-bit style which looks fine, but feels somewhat lacking. To my eye it’s not weird, satanic or bloody, nor is it colorful or psychedelic. Instead, the visuals treads a middle ground that failed to excite. Also, during frantic moments, it becomes hard to keep track of exactly what is going on due to too many lights and flashing effects.
When I managed to get into the flow of the combat, Scourgebringer felt like composing a symphony out of thin air – each hit flowed into the next, each defeated enemy making me stronger. Man, does it feel good. But, as is to be expected by the “roguelite” tag, Scourgebringer isn’t easy. The constant need to juggle between various attacks and the frantic use of the smash to repel bullets is hectic.
To be fair, it’s possible to go into the options menu and tweak the difficulty to make everything easier — things like slowing the speed of the enemies’ bullets or having more health – but even so, Scourgebringer rewards an aggressive style, wanting players to string together combos without ever pausing for breath. In light of this, the crucial smash mechanic felt like it needed more work — I’d often have to wait for it to recharge while facing multiple enemies. I had more luck trying to dash away from enemy fire, rather than trying to use the smash efficiently.
Scourgebringer will be manna from heaven for players craving a fluid, smooth roguelite with hair-raising action. While I wasn’t crazy about graphics and the relative lack of freedom in building my character, I kept coming back because of how it all came together when I found a good groove. With a more distinct art style and some tweaks to the controls, this could have been a real classic.
— Damiano Gerli
Disclosures: This game is developed by Flying Oak Games and published by Dear Villagers. It is currently available on PC, Switch, XBO and Mac. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game is rated T by the ESRB for Blood and Violence.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game doesn’t use audio cues of any kind and remains playable even with no sound on, as the enemies warn the player when attacking with an exclamation mark. Text cannot be resized but it’s possible to render the text in high definition to make it more legible. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are fully remappable.
Years later, he got the idea that he was the most Sega-knowledgeable person in the world, so he opened a website in 1997, The Genesis Temple.
He's a sucker for great stories in gaming, he loves adventure and indie titles, but he never shies away from action and triple-A RPGs.
Damiano's been writing about videogames for 20 years, with no plans to stop. Say hi to him on Twitter at @damgentemp, or on his blog https://genesistemple.com (now dedicated to the history of video game design).